Muslim Travelers That Shaped The World
IBN BATTUTA (1304-1377)
Born in Tangiers, Morocco, Abu Abdulla Muhammad – or better known as Ibn Battuta, is the greatest Muslim traveller of all time.
The account of his travels, “The Journey” (Al Rihla in Arabic), features a detailed account of the many regions of the world including most of the Islamic world.
Ibn Battuta was born on February 25, 1304 in Tangier, Morocco. At this time, Morocco was part of the Islamic Empire and Ibn Battuta grew up in a Muslim family. He likely spent his youth studying at an Islamic school learning reading, writing, science, mathematics, and Islamic law.
At the age of 21, Ibn Battuta decided it was time for him to make a pilgrimage to the Islamic holy city of Mecca. He knew that this would be a long and difficult journey, but he said goodbye to his family and set out on his own. Over the course of his voyage, he travelled to 44 modern countries and traversed nearly 75,000 miles. The trip to Mecca was thousands of miles long. He traveled across north Africa, usually joining a caravan for company and the safety of numbers. Along the way, he visited cities such as Tunis, Alexandria, Cairo, Damascus, and Jerusalem. Finally, a year and half after leaving home, he reached Mecca and completed his pilgrimage.
Ibn Battuta discovered during his pilgrimage that he loved to travel. He liked seeing new places, experiencing different cultures, and meeting new people. He decided to continue traveling.
Over the next 28 or so years, Ibn Battuta would travel the world. He first went up into Iraq and Persia visiting parts of the Silk Road and cities such as Baghdad, Tabriz, and Mosul. He then traveled along the east coast of Africa spending time in Somalia and Tanzania. After seeing much of the African coast, he returned to Mecca for Hajj.
Ibn Battuta next headed north visiting the land of Anatolia (Turkey) and the Crimean peninsula. He visited the city of Constantinople and then began to head east to India. Once in India, he went to work for the Sultan of Delhi as a judge.
He left there after a few years and continued his travels to China. In 1345, he arrived in Quanzhou, China.
While in China, Ibn Battuta visited cities such as Beijing, Hangzhou, and Guangzhou. He traveled on the Grand Canal, visited the Great Wall of China, and met with the Mongol Khan who ruled China.
After spending over a year in China, Ibn Battuta decided to head home to Morocco. Both of Battuta’s parents had died by then, so he only remained there for a short while before making a short excursion to Spain. He went north to Al-Andalus (Islamic Spain) and then headed back south into the heart of Africa to visit Mali and the famous African city of Timbuktu.
Later Life and Death:
In 1354, Ibn Battuta finally returned to Morocco. He told the story of his adventures to a scholar who wrote it all down in a book called the Rihla. He then remained in Morocco and worked as a judge until he died around the year 1369.
MUHAMMAD AL IDRISI (1100- 1165)
Muhammad Al Idrisi was a famous geographer and traveler who was born into the large Hammudid family of North Africa and Al Andalus. He was a descendant of the Idrisid rulers of Morocco, who in turn were descendants of Hassan bin Ali (ra), son of Ali (RA) and grandson of Prophet Muhammad (S). During his early life, Al Idrisi travelled through North Africa and Al Andalus and acquired detailed information on both regions. Also his travels took him to many parts of Europe. He is known to have studied in Cordoba.
When he reached adulthood, he spent years compiling information on Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Far East gathered by Islamic merchants and other explorers. He used this information to complete, the Tabula Rogeriana, which is considered to be the most accurate map of its time. The map, with legends written in Arabic, shows the northern part of the African continent.
AHMED IBN MAJID (1421- 1500)
Ahmad Ibn Majid was a famous navigator and Arabic poet who is most famous for having assisted Vasco da Gama in his quest to go around the Cape of Good Hope of South Africa. Raised in a family of seafarers, he was able to navigate ships at the age of 17 and was so famous that he was known as the first Arab seaman. His best-known work is the Book of useful Information on the Principles and Rules of navigation (Kitab al Fawa’id fi usul ‘Ilm al-Bahr wa ‘l-Qawa’id), which outlines the history and basic principles of navigation. His major contribution to world history was providing Vasco da Gama, the world famous Portuguese explorer, with a map of the world that was unknown to other European sailors at the time. He was also known as ‘The Lion of the Sea’.